Ever notice that your to-list is never complete? It’s a common problem—but these strategies can help.

By Megan Fu
Updated April 11, 2018
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Think about it: How often do you find yourself creating an extensive to-do list only to lose it (or give up on it entirely)? Probably pretty often, since it’s a common problem. Here’s the thing though: With a few tricks, you can accomplish everything on your to-do list before it overwhelms you, or disappears. Keep reading for some get-it-done strategies we love.

JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images


If you prefer the pen and paper route, get a great notebook that you can toss in your bag and tuck a pen in beside it. For digital to-doers, we like Wunderlist, an app that allows you to make any number of different to-do lists that you can collaborate on, set up notifications and due dates for, comment on, share with others, and even print out a hard copy of if you so choose. If you’re not up for downloading another app, the Notes one that’s already on your phone works, too!


Separate your tasks by both “category” (i.e. groceries, work, home, school, personal, etc.) and also by “time allotted to complete” (i.e. long-term, weekly, daily, within the next hour, etc.). This will give you a better idea of what you should focus on first and will also break your unbearably long list into more manageable bite-size pieces. A list of five items appears much more doable than a list of 30. By breaking it down, we make it easier to build back up again.


Think “wash the dishes” or “fold laundry” or “send email.” This way you can cross off a few tasks to get a groove going before attempting the more labor-intensive items. If you start with “write 45 thank you notes” or “Call the internet company” you may never have folded clothes again. Besides, checking off multiple things as “done” will make you feel like the most productive person in the world.


Everyone likes a pat on the back every once in a while—this is what your completed list is for, a metaphorical pat on the back. When all we see are tasks we have to do, we get overwhelmed and shut down. And while the act of crossing off a task can be incredibly fulfilling, physically creating another list of all the things you have done can provide a sense of accomplishment that gives you the boost you need to keep going.


The 100-year-old to-do list method is quite simple: At the end of each day, write down no more than six items you need to complete tomorrow. Rank them according to how important they are and when you start to tackle your list the next day start with number one and do not move on to number two until the first item is completed. Continue down the list, only focusing on one task at a time giving it your undivided attention until it is complete. If any task goes uncompleted, simply add it to your list for the next day and repeat.